Galveston needs a third passenger terminal.
That’s why the Galveston Wharves Board made a wise investment in agreeing to spend up to $100,000 on design plans.
The growth of this business has been one of Galveston’s success stories. Twenty years ago, the cruise business in Galveston was an idea, not a reality. Now, the island has one of the busiest ports in the nation in terms of cruise passengers.
In cultivating that business, the port has had to take measured steps. With no tax support, the port has tied improvements in infrastructure to lease contracts. The two existing terminals were developed by lining up tenants that were willing to cover the port’s costs.
The most recent example of this kind of financing was a five-year deal with Royal Caribbean Cruises. The deal gives the port a revenue stream, but the port will have to make about $10 million in improvements to Cruise Terminal No. 2.
That kind of financial model has limited the port’s ability to grow quickly, and that became a problem last fall. Princess Cruise Lines wanted to base a ship in Galveston for the winter cruise season. The port couldn’t accommodate the request because two other ships would be in port on the preferred sailing dates.
With no room in Galveston, the cruise company based its ship at the Port of Houston Authority’s Bayport terminal, giving new life to a competing facility that had been on the ropes.
This business has been important for Galveston. The entire community — and especially the business community — ought to do what it can to keep it healthy. The wharves board’s move was a good one and deserves public support.
Heber Taylor is editor of The Daily News.